by Jack Minor –
A town trustee is standing firm amidst a media onslaught, stating that he is not a racist and his comments are actually intended to help Spanish-only speaking persons succeed in America.
Recently the town of Gilcrest sent nearly 30 notices to residents informing them they would need to cut down trees or tree limbs within five days.
At a town meeting Monday, an individual said the city should send notices out in both English and Spanish. Gilcrest is 53 percent Spanish, but that does not mean that none of them speak or read English.
Bob Gandelman, a town trustee, opposed the idea of printing materials in both Spanish and English. In explaining his opposition, Gandelman said he had several concerns. The first was the issue of funding. Like many cities, Gilcrest has had to make some difficult choices regarding funding services. The town recently laid off a police officer due to budget cuts.
“I expressed concern for how we are going to fund the additional cost when we have had to make cutbacks in other areas, including laying off a police officer” Gandelman told the Gazette.
At the meeting Gandelman continued, “if they can’t understand, they should learn to speak English, or they can pay to have it translated. But I don’t see why we, the taxpayers in the room, should be paying for a translator for these people that can’t speak English.”
The statements caused a media uproar, with some people and outlets suggesting Gandelman was saying the only English speaking people pay taxes in the town.
In an editorial this weekend, the left-leaning Tribune condemned Gandelman’s statements, “By saying ‘we the taxpayers in the room’ Gandelman obviously believes Spanish-speaking residents of the town do not pay taxes.”
Gandelman says that allegation is ridiculous. “Of course, I understand that all residents pay taxes; that is not the issue. We simply do not have the funds to spend on additional printing costs.”
9News also did a story on the issue saying “Gandelman says he is reconsidering his stance on this particular issue.”
Gandelman said their statement is inaccurate and he has no intention of apologizing for his desire to want people to succeed in this country.
“The fact is, if you want to advance and succeed in this country, you need to learn to speak English. You cannot attain to higher paying jobs if you cannot communicate with the vast majority of citizens in this country.”
Gandelman went on to say the town has a full time worker that is bi-lingual and if someone does not read and speak English and does not know anyone who does, they can always come to the town hall and receive assistance with translating.
“If we continue to print all materials in Spanish, then where is the incentive for them to learn the English language? If a person moved to another country they don’t expect everyone there to speak English, the burden is on them to learn the native tongue.”
While some residents, including the mayor have been critical of his statements, Gandelman says the vast majority of Gilcrest residents, including Latinos, have been overwhelmingly supportive of his comments.
Gandelman said he has nothing to apologize for and his statements actually reflect a concern for people that do not speak English. “I am not going to apologize for wanting people to be able to better themselves and lift themselves out of poverty. That can only happen if you learn to speak the English language.”